This is part 2 in a series of projects, led by BehaviourWorks Australia in collaboration with the Neuromedicines Discovery Centre (NDC), to explore attitudes of Australian adults, organisations and politicians towards the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental health conditions in medically supervised environments.
Research into the use of psychedelic drugs as medication to treat mental health conditions alongside other treatments (e.g. talking therapies or psychotherapies) is increasing. The NDC is particularly interested in exploring attitudes of Australian adults towards the use of psychedelics (such as MDMA, an active ingredient in Ecstasy, and psilocybin, an active ingredient in magic mushrooms) as approved therapeutics for the treatment of chronic mental health concerns.
For this second part of the study, we interviewed 13 representatives from relevant organisations and political parties to capture and measure their attitudes and beliefs towards the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental health conditions.
In late 2022 and early 2023, we interviewed 13 representatives from relevant organisations and political parties. The interviews were conducted in an online or phone call format, with each interview lasting 30-45 minutes.
Interview participants were either employed in a senior role or had sufficient knowledge to comment on their organisation's or political party’s position on the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental health conditions.
By design, politicians were Victorian or had experience in Victorian politics.
Three major themes came out of these interviews:
The findings of this report have come at a good time, as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved the use of MDMA and psilocybin for the treatment of PTSD and treatment-resistant depression, respectively, on 3 February 2023. The time between 4 February and 1 July, 2023, is the time to prime key organisations and the community for the introduction of psychedelic medicines.
Organisations and politicians are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the medicines, so now is the time to shift cautious optimism to optimism and support. To do this, well-designed messages must be communicated in the right way, to the right people and now. The messages need to be clear, evidence-based, informative and (for some audiences, like politicians and those against the medicines) emotive. The right people to receive the message include those involved directly (e.g. patients and clinicians) and indirectly (e.g. politicians, drug producers and educators) in the treatment administration. The right people to deliver the message are those who people trust, like doctors and scientists.
Download the full report below for an in-depth read:
Kunstler, B., Hatty, M., Smith, L., Goodwin, D., Wright, B. & Langmead, C. “We're cautiously optimistic”: A practice review exploring the attitudes and beliefs about the medically supervised use of psychedelic drugs for the treatment of mental health conditions. Melbourne, Australia: BehaviourWorks Australia, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, February2023.
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